Life is Sweet in Napa Valley with Madrigal Family WineBy Kat Thomas, Edible Skinny
Our last planned sipping experience of the day (there was still more to come courtesy of JACK Winery) was the third generation run Madrigal Family Winery. Located on Highway 29, between Calistoga and St. Helena, this winery is situated on 40 acres of estate vineyards, from the highway to the treeline. Madrigal Family Winery is boutique, producing about 6,000 cases of wine a year. Cabernet Sauvignon is the primary varietal you'll find at the winery, but Madrigal also ventures out into Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, focusing on small lots of a single vineyard.
The Madrigals first started farming some of Napa Valley’s finest vineyards in the 1930's. The family left Mexico in the late 1930's and arrived in the Napa Valley where they began farming apples, pears, walnuts and grapes. They were one of the first, if not the first, Mexican family in upper Napa Valley. Early on Jess, who fathered 12 children, chose to focus on wine agriculture and started the family's vineyard management business. After working for Napa icons like Duckhorn, in the 1990's they decided to get in on the fun of making wine. In 1995, Madrigal Family Winery produced its first vintage of 500 cases of Petite Sirah. Today, that company manages over 800 acres. Looks like grape juice suits them! ;-)
The Madrigal family history is a constant source of inspiration, and guides them in their winemaking now. They value the long relationship they've had with the land and the people of the upper Valley, believing that the combined wisdom of the folks who’ve been here for generations and a deep appreciation of these vineyards can be tasted in their wine. Today, the company is run by Chris Madrigal, the founder's grandson, and vintner of Madrigal Family Winery.
Chris, who has 3 kids of his own, ultimately attributes the family’s success to a strong work ethic and luck. “I always say sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. I like being good and a lot of the things that have happened in our life has been a result of working hard, but if there wasn't luck involved with it, or if we weren't at the right place at the right time, our story could be drastically different. Be it luck or hard work, the Madrigal dream is alive and well.”
Not that it makes it easy. “There is not a lot of family vineyards left in Napa Valley, but this is our life.” Madrigal Family Winery is a portfolio company of Bacchus Capital Management, an investment firm providing strategic capital and making equity investments in United States family owned wineries and wine businesses. And Chris is not afraid to talk numbers with the guests. He explained the cost per acre to create a wine is $44,000. Any wine selling for under $30 in Napa is not making any money for the winery. So Madrigal Family Winery combats the daunting numbers with a constant dedication to their supporters. “We do 6 parties a year for our wine club, most wineries do one or two. We do a crab boil with no utensils, everything you eat is with your hands. And the results are astounding: the average retention rate of a wine club is 18 months. Madrigal’s is 6 years!”
Madrigal Family Winery also has a tasting room in Sausalito, but the best way to experience their wines is by visiting where their roots lie in Napa surrounded by the grapes.
Some wine favorites from our time at Madrigal Family Wine include:
- Gewurztraminer Mendocino (2016) - Storytelling white wine!!! Pales straw in color with peach and rose petal aromas. The stone fruit flavorings and crisp finish allow for even the tallest of tales to have a great ending!
- Petite Sirah Estate (2014) - This sophisticated wine is also the biggest varietal made in Calistoga. With notes of vanilla, blue fruits, and plums, this would be perfectly paired with a really nice BLT on sourdough with thick sliced bacon. It screams: JUICY.
- Las Vinas del Senor Cabernet Sauvignon (2014) - This wine was first crafted when Dad Jess turned 80. It’s a showstopper with elegance, sophistication, and a velvet finish to celebrate a nuanced lifetime! Vanilla, cherry, and cedar showcase the richness of the wine, and eighty years of experience!